Before … Camden Lodge in all of its glory. Photo: Margie Blok
THE house was one of the oldest in Sydney, a heritage-listed Homebush mansion ”steeped in history” and set among sprawling gardens.
Surrounding residents on the postcard-perfect Burlington Road fought for years to save it from demolition and have it restored like many other historic properties on the street.
Yesterday, however, Camden Lodge lay in tatters, heavily damaged after a suspicious fire that police are investigating.
After … Camden Lodge in tatters.
Emergency services were called to the five-bedroom Federation bungalow just before midnight on Monday where they located a fire in the roof. The blaze was extinguished in the early hours of yesterday but the roof collapsed.
The mayor of Auburn, Ronney Oueik, and his wife, Faten, bought the property, spread across three blocks, for $2.5 million in 2009 from the AJ Bush family, who were butchers in the mid-1900s.
Cr Oueik, a property developer, said the century-old building was structurally unsound and uninhabitable and lodged a development application with Strathfield Council in late 2010 to have it demolished. The application argued the house posed a risk to safety and that remedial works would be financially unviable and would alter the fabric of the residence to the extent that heritage value would be eliminated.
Instead, the Oueiks wanted to build a new single-storey house with a swimming pool, cabana and tennis court.
But the council refused the application, saying the house was in ”good condition with high intactness and integrity” and could easily be restored to protect its ”exceptional heritage, social and historical significance”.
It also noted the owners were taking no proactive steps to ensure the house did not deteriorate further. Trees had not been re-planted where others had been removed, leadlight window fixtures had gone missing and the property was not secure.
The Oueiks have been living in another house in Strathfield while Camden Lodge lies vacant. Cr Oueik did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.
The Herald does not suggest that Cr Oueik or members of his family are suspected of any involvement in the fire.
One Burlington Road neighbour said the fire was ”hugely dangerous” to surrounding houses with large gardens.
A crime scene was established at the house yesterday. As of last night, nobody had been questioned by police.